Let me set the scene. You are in America. You just left a rather lame cocktail party with a bunch of friends. You don’t want the evening to end quite yet and all are still rather famished. So you head to a late night pizza place or perhaps the local diner for a stack of pancakes. Fun ritual, right? Well, those clever Italians, in their special effortless way, trump our ritual hands down with their Spaghettata di Mezzanotte – or translated – Midnight Spaghetti. Instead of heading out, they head home for an impromptu dinner with the gang. Wine is opened; pots come clanging out; staples from the pantry appear; and the crowd gathers round the stove to produce probably the tastiest pasta you have ever eaten. Boom.
I have only once been invited to a spaghettata while in Tuscany – and at the time, I had no idea this event had an actual name. But silly me, of course it did! The pasta is usually prepared with the simplest of ingredients – usually garlic, olive oil, hot pepper, parmigiano are involved – and whatever ingredients happen to be on hand – canned tomatoes, anchovies, breadcrumbs, pancetta, capers. No sweat. No fuss. A feast fit for a crowd.
Recently, I had my very own spaghettata – well, sort of. A long week of travel to Europe; plane delayed 5 hours; didn’t want rubbery airplane food; walked in the door bright eyed and bushy tailed dead tired and famished; boyfriend out of town; almost midnight. Boom. My very own spaghettata was born. In fact, I even shouted ‘Spaghettata’ before I started pulling things from the pantry (well, maybe whispered not shouted). My spaghettata included the basics along with some rather tired looking broccoli. I could have added some pancetta or maybe an anchovy or two had they been in grabbing distance.
I normally do not eat heaps of pasta at midnight – very bad for my svelte girlish figure but damn, did that plate of pasta taste delicious. Spaghettata mission accomplished. I was so pleased that I even saved some to do a food photo shoot in the morning.
So grab some friends in a bar, shout ‘Spaghettata’, and after all the quizzical looks, explain they are invited back to your kitchen for a very special treat! Enjoy!
Spaghettata Pasta with Broccoli
- 1 head broccoli
- 1 pound pasta like penne or ziti
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- A pinch or two red pepper flakes
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Freshly grated Parmigiano
Clean the broccoli and cut into relatively large pieces. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Add in the broccoli and cook until just al dente – try not to overcook as the broccoli will cook a bit in the sauce. Remove the broccoli, reserving the cooking liquid for cooking the pasta. Drain the broccoli and allow to cool a bit.
Bring the pot of water back to a boil. Add in the pasta and cook according to package directions, until al dente.
Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium low heat. Add in the garlic, a pinch or two of salt and red pepper flakes. Keep heat low so as to not burn the garlic. Cut the broccoli into smaller bite size florets. Trim and cut the stems as well. Toss into the pan and stir to combine and coat with the yummy sauce. Allow to simmer until the broccoli is warmed through. Add a grind or two of black pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Once the pasta is cooked, reserve a half cup of cooking liquid. Drain the pasta and toss with the sauce. If dry, add a bit of the cooking liquid. Toss everything to combine. Adjust seasonings.
Serve in a warmed pasta bowl. Top with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and plenty of freshly grated Parmigiano. Serve!